Saturday, 19 November 2016

Alistair leading the way - Taken by Christina 

The Autumn colours are desperately hanging on before the winter winds and frosts arrive. The ground is now soft enough to use the grass field which seriously tests the fitness of the jockey, much more than it does the horse.....
Last Friday night we went to the Point to Point awards in Cheltenham, which was a great evening (still getting over the late night now!) and then we went to the luncheon party at Jo and Richard Mann's which was a really lovely occasion. with proper genuine, hardworking farming/racing people. Doug and Patrick had a farm tour by Peter Mann and were really impressed by the quality and number of cattle they have around.
On Tuesday we were invited to look around the farm of Alice Townsend, a lady we met through hunting. She farms around the Newbottle area. We were hugely impressed by her set-up and particularly liked the way she ran a very productive farm (1600 acres) hand in hand with some really good conservation schemes. Not easy to do both so well, and hats off to her. She also had her own cutting room on the farm and the meat went straight to the Butcher's shop in Brackley, therefore cutting out the middle man and maximising profit. It is great to get our 'Farming Fix' and really inspiring to meet someone so enthusiastic and positive about the industry.
Yesterday we took four horses to Ben Brain's to have their wind checked. He gave a soft palate to Popaway and Goody (She last had her last operation two seasons ago as did Goody), He also did Lily (Premier Gold) as her palate always flips when she goes up the gallops and lazered Cloud, who when scoped was found to have a huge obstruction of her epiglottis which would explain why the poor little thing makes so much noise in a race. He couldn't believe that she had managed to finish a race let alone get placed. She is a tough little baggage. We helped him with all the operations and then went for a walk from Stow to Lower Swell for lunch and then after they had recovered took them home so that they could be tucked up in their own stable for tea time. All of them are really bright today and you wouldn't believe that they have had anything done. They will have a week of light duties and then be back cantering.
I had a long chat with Ben's father, who is 94 years young and a real character. He was a spit fire pilot in the second world war. He left school at 16 years of age to join the RAF. Because all the airfields had been blown up by the Germans he went to Canada to learn to fly. At the age of 17 he was flying in the war and did so for 6 years, narrowly escaping death on many an occasion. When the war ended he was accepted into the Royal Veterinary College even though he had no qualifications but passed his exams with flying colours and became a leading expert on breathing operations travelling all other the world.He is still as sprightly as ever and . It was an honour to meet such a wonderful man. Ben has taken over the mantle and is absolutely brilliant at his job.